July 21-23, 2023, Green Mountain Retreat, Los Gatos, CA
Contributed by Mora Oommen, Executive Director, Youth Community Service (YCS)
As we leave behind the Friday afternoon traffic of Silicon Valley, Azaria, Ambree and I enjoy the clean air and tall redwoods that welcome us on the windy road up the mountain top. This is our first experience at the Shinnyo-en Foundation Annual Retreat and we are filled with anticipation and curiosity. We made it to the home group facilitator orientation with two-minutes to spare!
Azaria and Ambree are high school students who are engaged in Youth Community Service (YCS) service-learning activities at East Palo Alto Academy (EPAA). As seniors preparing to apply to colleges, this experience offered a window into dorm accommodations with shared bathrooms and community space. The retreat was also a unique opportunity to connect with Shinnyo Fellows who are recent college graduates dedicated to service, service-learning youth organizations, Shinnyo-en members and fellow youth who brought their lived experiences.
Over the next few days, each of us experienced the love and power of intergenerational reflection and growth. The meticulous planning that went into setting up home groups with youth leadership as co-facilitators created opportunities for adults and youth to share in learning, reflection, and fun! We shared scrumptious meals and creative ice-breakers, explored asset mapping in our communities, and identified unique leadership traits that we each brought to the table. We also experienced time for self-reflection through activities such as meditative walks along the labyrinth, and gifting and receiving beads to create bracelets for each of us to treasure.
As we return to our busy lives, we can look down at our colorful, smooth beads, and remember our unique stories that are strung together in our common desire to create infinite paths to peace. Thank you Shinnyo-en for offering such a beautiful gift to share with Ambree and Azaria as they prepare to graduate from high school!
Please visit our photo gallery to see more photos from our Annual Retreat at this link.